Monday mornings are the hardest for pastors. After proclaiming the Word of God on Sunday, Mondays mark the beginning of preparation for the next Sunday. Pastors from small rural churches to large urban churches experience difficulties. Time seems to evade us so quickly. There’s family life to do, work to be done, counseling, meetings, preparations, and on top of all that, squeaky wheels complaining about almost anything. Considering the suffering and trials the Apostle Paul was enduring, he added this in 1 Corinthians 11:28: “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
Timothy was not exempt from daily pressures of being a Christian pastor. There was much persecution in those days, mainly from Nero. Paul wrote 1 Timothy after his release from prison. Now 2 Timothy is written from prison again, but this time his concern is for young Timothy. The fact is, Timothy seems to be showing signs of wavering faith. Before we begin to condemn him for this, we must look at our own lives. Many of us have wanted to quit. Many have quit. If we are honest, we will look and see the pattern leading up to that. I know, I resigned in 2008 after eight years as a pastor in a rural Alabama county, and I swore I would not pastor again.
In 2013, I took an interim pastoral position assuring the folks I would not stay as pastor. Well, it is 2022, and I am still there, and I am grateful. But I have learned some great lessons in this pastorate. There have been times I considered stepping down again, but I simply stepped back and asked the Lord for help. I often read 2 Timothy because it is a great encouragement. Here is what I have learned from this book.
A mentor is essential.
Paul could see the struggle likely occurring in Timothy amidst persecution,
For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
(2 Tim 1:6–7)
Sometimes we need to be reminded of the gift of God in preaching. We need to be reminded not to fear man or what he can do to us.
A mentor reminds us of who redeemed us (2 Tim 1:8–10). It is a reminder to Timothy not to be ashamed of Jesus. The truth is, there are many pressure points for pastors to be sensitive to; for example, what the culture says on certain subjects such as marriage, sexuality, and purity. The temptation to not firmly stand on those subjects because of ridicule is real. Like Paul encouraged Timothy, we should always remember who saved us with a holy calling and to be ready to “suffer” for the gospel.
A mentor can encourage us to be strong, not in our own will, but God’s.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:1
Whatever pressures arise in our life to hinder us or make us want to quit must be refuted by the grace of Jesus. We are strong in him, not in ourselves.
A mentor should also encourage us to be faithful to God.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
2 Timothy 2:8-10
We must be faithful to preach God’s word no matter what civil magistrates or governments do. They may “outlaw” God’s word and even imprison people for it, but there’s an eternal purpose for preaching. Through some of these trials, men may come to saving faith in Christ. That is why we preach the truth at times when it is not popular.
A mentor may help avoid senseless issues.
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.
2 Timothy 2:14-18
There have been too many senseless controversies I have let myself get drawn into. Controversies that have no eternal value. I have wasted too much time on secondary disagreements. They have drained me of valuable time elsewhere. Do not let this be something that drains your energy from solid pastoral preaching.
A mentor can encourage us to strive for holiness.
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
It is valuable to be surrounded by godly men who can remind us of what to pursue. Our culture is trying to invade this, and we are all at risk of losing sight of holiness in the midst of pressures and trials. Yet, the word flee is a Greek verb that means “seek safety by flight.” We should be teaching others to pursue righteousness. This is a mark of a true Christian—one who pursues righteousness and flees what is harmful.
A mentor may warn of impending difficult times.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
2 Timothy 3:1
Those who preach the truth and stand for the truth will always be ostracized to some degree. And with social media today, the ability to spread lies and slander is easy to do. However, we know times will come. We know the Bible speaks of adversity when standing for the truth of the gospel.
A mentor can remind us of what has already been laid.
Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:10-12
We are not the first ones to have trials. Paul reminds Timothy to follow his teaching and to conduct himself as Paul did when experiencing afflictions. Timothy could see how Paul responded, and he was to be emboldened to do the same. We should be encouraged by this also as we endure similar afflictions because God is faithful.
A mentor should charge us to preach.
Preach the word.
2 Timothy 4:2
We are to “herald” the Word. Every time we open God’s Word, we are to preach the truth of the scriptures found in his Word. Whether it is a small class or maybe a group of unbelievers who may be listening, we are to preach the Word. This is the greatest command given to us. We should encourage young men to preach the truth and never customize God’s Word to fit with the mindset of a culture that wants to hear a post-modern, false interpretation of the scriptures. During these times of suffering that Paul was enduring, Timothy was busy pastoring, and times were hard. He was wavering somewhat, but a godly mentor encouraged him to continue in the hope that he had been given and to place his trust in a sovereign God.
Today or tomorrow or next week, when waves of weariness may roll in, I will read this letter. I will be encouraged and strengthened to forge ahead, proclaiming the magnificent truth of the gospel in the midst of a wicked, perverse world.